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The benefits of cannabis for human health are well-known. What you may not know, however, is that this miraculously healing plant may be of benefit to your canine as well. The safest cannabinoid for your dog is CBD. Here’s the run-down on CBD for dogs: what you need to know plus the pros and cons.
The Endocannabinoid System
According to Dr. Ralph Mechaoulam, professor of Medicinal Chemistry at Hebrew University and cannabis research pioneer, humans have an endocannabinoid system. So does every other mammal on earth, including your dog.
The endocannabinoid system can be thought of a subtle, non-localized system in the body, like the lymph or endocrine system. Its job is to provide support and balance to all mechanisms and organs in the body. It relies on a complex system of cellular receptor sites which extends throughout the body.
These receptors are for endocannabinoids, the same basic molecular substances that are produced by the cannabis plant. In the plant, they are called phytocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids, however, are produced by the body itself.
Research into the benefit of cannabis is just starting to take off where humans are concerned. When it comes to research on how cannabis can benefit dogs or cats, there is almost none. Positive anecdotal evidence abounds, however – so much so that many veterinarians are now embracing cannabis. Their clinical experience suggests that canine conditions such as pain, nausea, seizures, anxiety/stress, arthritis, gastrointestinal issues, and cancer may all be helped in some way by this healing plant.
Cannabis Fills the Void
When the body cannot produce enough endocannabinoids to fill all cellular receptors, phytocannabinoids in the form of Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can be used in specific doses to provide supplemental support.
“We now know that the endocannabinoid system regulates a lot of biological functions, such as appetite, food intake, motor function, reproduction, and many others, and that is why [cannabis] has such a wide therapeutic potential,” says Dr. Cristina Sanchez, lead cannabis researcher and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Complutense University.1
Like all bodily systems, the endocannabinoid system can become imbalanced through bad lifestyle habits, poor diet, chronic stress, and the buildup of toxins. And like other systems, imbalance can lead to a host of disease conditions.
The Entourage Effect & Pet Healing
The term Cannabis refers to all plants that belong to this genus, including hemp, psychoactive strains with high THC, and more. There are literally hundreds of cannabis strains. Within each strain, there are hundreds of phytonutrients, terpenes, variations of CBD and THC, and other healing substances. Scientists have discovered 200 different kinds of terpenes in the hemp plant and over 400 in strains with higher THC content.
The way terpenes, CBD, THC, and other phytonutrients all work together within the cannabis plant to affect the body is called the “entourage effect.” This is important to know, because the entourage effect is what causes healing to occur for your pet.
What is Hemp?
Hemp is the foundational plant for most pet-focused products. Hemp (a variety of Cannabis sativa) has minute (tiny) amounts of THC but not enough to produce psychoactive effects in humans and dogs. Many pet owners have experienced positive effects using hemp-based CBD for dogs, especially for inflammatory conditions.
The main thing to consider regarding hemp is the purity of the product that you purchase for your pooch. Hemp is legal to purchase in medical marijuana-legal states, and dozens of companies currently sell hemp products online.
Although hemp growers don’t need to use as much pesticide on their hemp crops as other farmers (high terpene levels create a natural pest repellent), the amount of hemp that is needed to produce one bottle of tincture is massive, so the overall concentration of dangerous chemicals that may be in a bottle could be high.
Always make sure to buy your CBD oil from companies that can guarantee 100% organic sourcing and safe extraction practices. Many European and some American companies make this claim. But be sure to do your homework to make sure what they are saying is legitimate.2
Cannabis for Pet Cancer
Straight CBD oil derived from hemp may be just the thing that will get your best friend going again. After all, a 2016 survey conducted by Colorado State University and published the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association found that of nearly 650 people surveyed, 72% reported having used a hemp-based cannabis product for their canine friend (14% used it on their cat as well). In total, 64% of those surveyed felt that it helped them.3
In addition, CBD has long been proven to have anti-cancer and tumor-reducing effects, according to research at the University of Milan4 and several other studies. Some studies have pointed to the possibility that CBD may affect cancer genes by shutting down cancer cellular growth receptors.5
However, research on mice may point to THC’s ability to kickstart cancer apoptosis and stop cancer metastasis as well. Dr. Cristina Sanchez’s mouse models using both CBD and THC on brain and breast cancer has found that cannabis was most potent against tumors when the right amounts of THC and CBD were combined.6
Other studies on reproductive cancers as well as lung,7 bladder, colon, and pancreatic cancers have led to the same conclusion.
Mounting Pressure for Veterinarian Cannabis Research
According to a January 2018 report put out by the American Veterinarian, research into the pain management and symptom relief benefits of all kinds of cannabis is a top priority for veterinarians. Pointing to the April 2017 ruling by the DEA that THC-containing marijuana should remain a class 1 drug on par with heroin and cocaine, the article states that “The ruling hasn’t swayed the shared interests of pet owners and veterinarians who are curious as to how marijuana products could be used to treat predominant pet ailments, including anxiety and joint pain.”
One veterinary cannabis advocate, the late Dr. Doug Kramer, had gathered more than 300 success stories about the benefits of medical cannabis for cancer pain management and other pet symptom relief. During his life, he had become a champion for veterinarian cannabis research after cannabis helped his own dog, Nikita, live out her last months in comfort instead of pain.
“My position is the same as the [American Medical Association’s]. We need to investigate marijuana further to determine whether the case reports I’m hearing are true or whether there’s a placebo effect at work,” he told the American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA) in an interview in 2013.8
The AVMA and some major research institutions feel the same way. The AVMA has encouraged the DEA to change marijuana’s Schedule 1 status in order to “facilitate research opportunities for veterinary and human medical uses.”
At the same time, lead researchers at some of the nation’s top veterinary medicine programs are actively seeking federal approval for veterinarian cannabis research. One such institution is Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, which is currently seeking participants in a clinical trial to assess how CBD may affect canine osteoarthritis and epilepsy.9
5 Tips When Using CBD for Dogs
If you decide to give CBD a try for your pet, follow these guidelines for the safety and health of your pooch:
#1: Start low and slow. CBD from hemp (or very low THC found in other strains) has many benefits on its own, but dosages can vary depending on the product. Always follow dosage directions on the product label. The organic pet CBD company Treatibles.com recommends 1 milligrams of CBD for every 10 pounds of animal weight. Some pets may require more or less depending on their condition and constitution. The general rule of thumb is to be conservative and observe your dog over a few days to a week. You can always up the dose if you need to.
#2: Use oil. CBD oil can be mixed in food or given straight and is the medium of choice for most pet parents. The oil allows the cannabis to be absorbed into the body through the liver, producing longer-lasting and less intense effect. Never give your dog cannabis in smoke form.
#3: Monitor Your Dog. This is especially important after you give your dog cannabis for the first time. It is also a good idea to keep a log of when and how much you administer in case you need to adjust over time.
#4: Go 100% Organic. It is of utmost importance that you avoid exposing your dog or cat to pesticides. Make sure you choose only organically sourced and safely produced cannabis products for your pet.
#5: Consult with a holistic veterinarian. Many vets are getting on board when it comes to cannabis for dogs and cats. If you live in a cannabis-friendly state, don’t assume that your pet’s vet will not talk to you about CBD or other kinds of cannabis. These days, some vets have even received special training in cannabinoids.10
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The benefits of cannabis are well-known, and the safest cannabinoid for your dog is CBD.
Canine conditions such as pain, nausea, seizures, cancer, and more may all be helped in some way by CBD.
CBD may affect cancer genes by shutting down cancer cellular growth receptors.
Research into the pain management and symptom relief benefits of cannabis is a top priority for vets.
4 tips when using CBD for dogs:
- Start with low doses and adjust as necessary
- Use CBD oil
- Monitor your dog’s response
- Use only organic CBD products
- Consult a veterinarian